A December holiday miracle occurred, with no restaurants closing and a whopping 24 restaurants opening their doors across metro Phoenix. Start the year off with a visit to an authentic Shaanxi restaurant, debate between two new Louisiana-style spots, or keep your resolutions with a visit to one of the three new health-food spots now open in the Valley. Sushi, Mediterranean, sweet shops, and, of course, new pizza joints round out the newbie lineup.
Shaanxi Garden, Mesa
House of Egg Roll in Chandler was a typical Chinese-American joint, but the space has transformed into a popular Shaanxi regional Chinese restaurant. The menu focuses exclusively on the distinctive dishes of Shaanxi, with spicy pork burgers, grilled oysters, and all manner of comforting soups, from oxtail tomato to lamb dumpling soup. There are samplers like Four Bowls of Happiness, which offers a taste of chilled, marinated tofu, stir-fried beef with cumin and Sichuan pepper, pork meatballs, and pork belly in sweet soy and fermented black beans. The region and the restaurant are known for noodles. The dish to order here is the biángbiáng noodles — long, flat noodles that come topped with stewed pork bok choy.
The Bodhi, Tempe
Looking for healthy, casual food in the ASU area? This new build-your-own-bowl joint might be your new favorite spot. Grab a Greek bowl stuffed with organic quinoa, red kale, cucumber, tomato, red pepper, hummus, feta, and lemon tahini. You can go crazy building your own bowl or salad starting with your veggie or carb base; "nutrients" like Brussels sprouts, beets, feta, and kale tabouleh; protein in the form of falafel, chicken, turkey or beef; sauces like chimichurri or sesame ginger miso; an optional dip, like hummus; and finally, an optional sprinkle of nuts.
Paik’s Noodle, Mesa
Paik's noodles is a Korean jajaingmyeon, jampong, Tangsuyuk chain that originated in California and opened this month on South Dobson Road. Dishes includes the likes of jajaingmyeon (black bean noodles with shredded pork), Tangsuyuk (pork strips deep fried with a rice flour batter and served in a sweet sauce), and spicy jampong (seafood udon soup). The casual counter-service spot is no-frills, offering no beverage menu and no takeaway option, and no phone or website (yet). However, the unique, affordable Korean noodles on offer seem to be a big enough draw on their own.
The Halal Guys
The New York City transplant that opened shop in Tempe last year has expanded to Ray Road in Phoenix. The menu keeps it simple, offering chicken, beef gyro, falafel, or combination proteins in sandwiches or platters, served with toppings like grilled onions and peppers, and their classic white sauce and hot sauce. The Phoenix location is open until midnight, making it a great addition to the after-hours food scene.
Beast of Bourbon Bar and Grill, Mesa
This spacious bar on South Power Road features live rock and country music acts along with over 50 bourbons and whiskeys. The booze can be enjoyed straight up or in updated versions of classics like old fashioneds and whiskey sours. The food is standard bar fare with items like honey hot wings, burgers, nachos, shredded pork, and some oddballs, like a tuna melt.
Tang's Garden, Tempe
There's a new Szechuan joint on East Broadway Road serving up Chinese lamb ribs that are meltingly tender and presented on a wooden carving board, broiled whole fish coated in Szechuan spices, garlic shredded pork, Szechuan noodles, and mapo tofu. The restaurant has a sleek modern interior, but you'll likely come for the authentic eats, not the design.
The Sicilian Butcher, Scottsdale
A new restaurant helmed by Joey Maggiore, also of Hash Kitchen, totes out meat-and-cheese boards that are five feet long. Craft meatballs form the heart of the menu. They come in close to a dozen takes ranging from more familiar (like beef) to Sicilian (pine nut and raisin) to creative (eggplant parm). You start by picking the meatball you want; then you select one of nine sauces from a roster that contains the likes of vodka sauce, carbonara, and Sicilian almond pesto; finally, you select a “bottom” of pasta, risotto, gnocchi, salad, or bread (for a meatball sandwich). The menu also features flatbreads and house-made pastas.
Quartiere opened in the Tempe space that was once home to neighborhood standby Riazzi's Italian Garden. Owner Erick Geryol says Quartiere aims to update the old breed of Italian that Riazzi’s was cooking. Menu highlights include a somewhat classic Bolognese. The slow-simmered sauce is built on sausage, beef from an Arizona provider, imported pancetta and prosciutto, and chicken livers. Quartiere braises short ribs in a sauce with cherries and bourbon. The kitchen cooks branzino in parchment with potatoes, asparagus, butter, herbs, and white wine. The cocktail menu takes cues from Italy but isn't afraid to depart from tradition. Mixologists build drinks from the likes of Campari and fig vodka.
Hop Social Tavern, Chandler
This Oregon native has finally opened its doors on Chandler Boulevard. The restaurant features 52 beers on tap. Its menu is touted as being an "entirely scratch-made Americana menu." In reality, the menu seems to have global aspirations, with globe-trotting selection of appetizers including soft-baked pretzels with beer cheese, chile verde nachos, sushi, bruschetta flatbread, shishito peppers, and doughnuts. Appetizer doughnuts. Mains run a similar gamut from burgers, sandwiches, salads, and soups to "wok inspired" and "specialties" that include meatloaf, chicken pot pie, Thai prawns, and fish and chips.
Flavors of Louisiana, Chandler
This new location on Chandler Boulevard (there's already one in Avondale) has imported the down-south flavors of seafood gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, po'boys, cornmeal crusted catfish, buttery crawfish pie, and banana pudding. The interior is painted to look like the bayou and features simple banquet tables, though you probably won't notice anything else when the food starts to arrive, beginning with hushpuppies, fried green tomatoes, and fried okra.
Louisiana Fried Chicken & Wings, Chandler
This casual little restaurant is kind of true to its name in that it offers fried chicken, fried chicken tenders, hot wings, and other Louisiana (read: Southern) specialties like catfish, coleslaw, and mashed potatoes. Fried shrimp, chicken nuggets, and sandwiches are also on deck, and the 15 hot wing sauce options range from honey hot to lemon pepper. Snacks like mozzarella sticks, spring rolls, and fried-chicken-topped salads complete the food menu, while drink offerings include boba, smoothies, and lemonade.
Downtown Deli Tavern
A modern deli concept opened its doors at Monroe Street and North Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix in the space once home to Downtown Deli. Downtown Deli Tavern makes the count of metro Phoenix eateries an even dozen for Genuine Concepts, the hospitality group behind Ladera, The Vig, and others. The menu takes a step or two away from old-school deli fare, with Justin Woodard, formerly of The Vig, focusing on a selection of typical American classics, like salads, burgers, and sandwiches. The menu features eats like meatloaf, hashes, omelets, egg salad sandwiches, and apple pie, as well as comfort foods like smothered hash browns and fried peanut butter and jelly. Coffee costs just $.50. Breakfast is served all day.
Haiku Tokyo, Gilbert
This restaurant is a crazy fusion of some of the biggest food trends of the year, offering ramen, poke, and bubble tea along with appetizers like squid salad, coconut shrimp, and crispy spring rolls. Order in typical poke fashion at the counter for takeaway or grab a seat to enjoy the likes of tonkotsu with pork loin, which combines a spicy, sesame-flavored broth and Japanese noodles with slices of lean pork.
Creme & Chocolats, Mesa
Owned by a Canadian couple, this new dessert shop on South Val Vista offers nine different types of liquefied Belgium chocolate sauces that you can enjoy over the ice cream, inside crispy crepes, as a fondue with fresh fruit, or drizzled over nine types of house-made soft serve ice cream in flavors ranging from vanilla to moka cappuccino.
A branch of this California fast-Asian chain has opened on Bell Road in Phoenix. The concept is simple: You start by picking your bowl size, then pick a base of brown or white rice, vegetables, vegetables and rice, or salad. Next, pick a protein, either chicken, beef, half-and-half, or tofu. Finally, pick your toppers like spring onion or avocado. It is like a poke shop for non-seafood-eaters.
Gyro House 32
This casual, family-owned Middle Eastern eatery opened in 2005 on 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard, but closed last year. The shop has now reopened on 32nd Street near Cactus Road and is again slinging gyro sandwiches, Greek-style french fries covered in feta, hummus, babaganoush, falafel sandwiches, baklava, and house-made tzakiki sauce. The small storefront surprisingly also hosts live music and belly dancers a few times a month.
Bene Plates Cafe, Tempe
This restaurant started off as a meal delivery service for patients at The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) and others who needed healthy food but couldn't cook for themselves. It has now opened a permanent shop at 2152 East Broadway Road. The eatery sources from local produce farms and organic certified vendors to offer inexpensive meals, which hardly sound like typical health food. There's a chorizo breakfast burrito, vegan breakfast hash, cilantro chicken sandwich with chipotle aioli, barbecue pork chop salad, and a slew of coffee and specialty drinks, like the Creamsicle iced tea.
Thai On Demand, Scottsdale
A chef-owned, cozy little shop has opened in a stripmall on East Via Linda serving up Thai specialties like a sweet and savory chicken panang curry, crispy smoked chili chicken with coconut rice, Tom Ka soup, spring rolls, yellow curry, and a bunch of noodle options that come with your choice of protein.
MOD Pizza, Tempe
Now open in Tempe Marketplace, MOD is the latest in the spate of made-to-order artisan pizza spots in the Valley. Pizzas and salads are made in individual sizes on-the-spot. For a flat price, you can choose as many of the menu's 30-plus toppings as you like. If you go too mad scientist and end up with a nasty pie, Mod will replace your order. Or you can play it safe and order a preset creation, like the Lucy Sunshine, which features mozzarella, Parmesan, artichokes, garlic, and red sauce.
Chen’s Noodle House, Tempe
Taiwanese beef noodles and Chinese barbecue are the name of the game at this new hole-in-the-wall on East Lemon Street. Choose from a dozen different noodle dishes made with egg or rice noodles. The eatery also offers lamb, fish, and spicy ma la hot pots, as well as barbecue kebabs like pork belly, quail, and tofu.
ATL Wings, Scottsdale
Crispy, juicy hot wings come in 22 varieties and Kool-Aid (in three different flavors) is on tap at this new, family-owned restaurant on North Goldwater Boulevard. Try dry rub hot wings in the namesake ATL style or exotic barbecue options like honey habanero or citrus chipotle. For traditionalists, the red-sauce wings range from mild to toxic. Add a side of bacon cheese fries to complete your feast.
All-you-can-to-eat sushi in Ahwahtukee? Yep, you read that right. But, don't worry, it isn't a buffet. Instead, a host at Sakura Sushi will seat you, then leave you to look through the menu and pencil in your selections on an order pad. Your food will arrive. You will eat. Then you can order more. At a base price of $13.50 for lunch, you can certainly eat your money's worth of raw fish and rolls. They also offer soba bowls, tempura, and other Japanese specialties, in case you aren't in the mood for sushi.
Crisp Premium Pizza, Scottsdale
New Yorker Adrian Langu opened a pizza shop in Old Town Scottsdale serving grandma-style pies. Grandma pies are square. Their thickness is somewhere between Neapolitan and Sicilian. Langu bakes his pizza in pans slicked with olive oil, aiming for crispness on the underside and softness within. Toppings are classic. Meat-wise, Langu topps pizzas with the likes of pepperoni, sausage, and chicken. Mushrooms, olives, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and garlic are among the vegetable toppings. He hits pizza with both mozzarella and Pecorino cheese. He makes his tomato sauce himself.
Tempe Meadows, Tempe
This restaurant, marketplace, and bakery has opened at 1490 East Weber Drive on the former site of a golf course, which means more rolling hills and grassy fields than you might otherwise expect to see in metro Phoenix. The cafe serves simple breakfast and lunch dishes, like cinnamon rolls, tomato soup, and quiche, with a focus on local sourcing. The dog-friendly space hosts a weekend farmers market and events like outdoor movie screenings.